It’s certainly not the most flattering image.
Incumbent State Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass, is being portrayed by conservatives as the next Donald Trump. “You’re fired!” states a mailing going out to voters in the Colorado 5th Senate District. The front of the mailing: a photo of Schwartz’s face with the body and trademark hair of Trump Photoshopped into the image.
The argument by the conservative Denver-based Western Tradition Partnership, which is responsible for the mailing and has a national arm extending to Washington, D.C., is that Schwartz’s co-sponsorship of a measure this year that raised the state’s renewable energy standard will result in Colorado residents losing jobs. The group also argues that the higher renewable energy standard — 30 percent by 2020 — will raise utility costs.
“Gail Schwartz has two words for Coloradans — ‘you’re fired,’” said Donald Ferguson, executive director of the Western Tradition Partnership. “Her energy tax forcing utility companies to buy more expensive electricity eliminates jobs by increasing utility bills.”
The Western Tradition Partnership, which often directly attacks the renewable energy industry, argues that the higher renewable energy standard panders to “politically-connected, higher-priced ‘green’ speculators.”
“Not only does her special interest energy tax jack up your utility bills, studies show ‘green’ energy destroys 2.2 jobs for every job she claims it creates,” states the mailing. “Thousands of Coloradans — like you — will lose their jobs under Gail Schwartz’s energy tax.”
The figures presented by the Western Tradition Partnership directly conflict with figures presented by proponents of the higher renewable energy standard. Reports issued this year state that the new standard will spark Colorado’s economy by increasing the use of renewables, including solar energy. The increased standard is expected to deploy 700 megawatts of solar generation by 2020. A report released back in March by proponents states that the increase could create 23,450 jobs over the next 10 years.
House Bill 1001 increased the state’s current standard of 20 percent by 2020. Utilities and the Colorado Public Utilities Commission supported the bill because it also sets a requirement that 3 percent of total electricity sales come from distributed generation systems powered not just by solar resources, but also by other renewables like wind.
Utilities say they are already well on track to meet the 20 percent by 2020 requirement, stating that utilities will likely meet the current requirement by as early as 2015 or by 2017 at the latest.
The Western Tradition Partnership had originally attempted to overturn HB 1001 through a ballot initiative that would have allowed utility customers to vote on whether to opt out of the state’s renewable energy standard. But the group backed off the initiative drive, instead saying they will attempt to change the law through legislative action this year.
The mailing from the conservative group makes no direct mention of Schwartz’s opponent, Republican Bob Rankin, but Democrats suggest that the mailing was intended to take support away from Schwartz in support of Rankin.
Schwartz on Friday told the Denver Daily News that the mailing is an example of politics at its worst.
“Obviously I am deeply disgusted by the thuggish and deceptive mailing that has polluted the mail boxes of Senate District 5 voters,” she said in an e-mail. “Any decent citizen should rightly be offended. Furthermore, it is precisely this kind of political manipulation that makes people hate politics and destroys the integrity of our political process. Make no mistake, those responsible for the mailing do not live in our state or have any commitment to Colorado.”
Schwartz also took offense to the Western Tradition Partnership’s self-description that it “does not advocate the election or defeat of candidates.”
“Western Tradition Partnership and Donald E. Ferguson Associates state that the organization does not endorse, support, or oppose candidates for election,” continued Schwartz.
“How can any fair-minded person believe that this mail piece fits those guidelines?”